Halo Composer Sues Bungie After He Was Fired "Without Cause"

Marty O'Donnell claims Bungie is refusing to pay him benefits he is owed.

Marty O'Donnell, the man made famous by serving as the music composer on the Bungie-developed Halo games, has sued his former employer following his dismissal in April.

The lawsuit, which was obtained by GamesBeat, echoes what O'Donnell said in April, which is that Bungie fired him "without cause." The former audio director was given "no explanation" for the move by Bungie or president Harold Ryan, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit.

Despite allegedly promising to follow its policy of paying employees for benefits like unused vacation time, Bungie has not done so, according to the lawsuit. "Ryan has willfully and intentionally caused Bungie to deprive O’Donnell of accrued but unused vacation time, paid time off, sabbatical time, and other benefits," it states.

The composer is also in arbitration with the company over other, unspecified grievances, which may later be added to the lawsuit if it's decided that the issues aren't subject to arbitration.

The lawsuit was filed on May 1 in Superior Court in the state of Washington. (Bungie is based in Bellevue, WA.) On May 27, Ryan and Bungie responded, denying his allegations and the suggestion that he is "entitled to the relief requested, or any relief whatsoever."

O'Donnell's April firing came as a surprise given his long tenure with the company and the wide acclaim for his work. (One of my personal favorite tracks is above.) Shortly after letting him go, Bungie stated that its next game, Destiny, which launches on September 9, would not be affected by his departure. Curiously, O'Donnell mentioned in an interview at the time that he still had an ownership stake in the developer.

GameSpot has contacted Bungie for comment regarding the lawsuit and will report back with any comment we receive.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

62 comments
Scalds
Scalds

First track, first Halo, rolling blue across the load screen.  That is when I fell in love with Mr. Marty O.  


I own all of the soundtracks to Halo and I own the soundtracks to literally nothing else.  All are great.  ODST is probably my overall favorite, but all have fantastic songs.  


Go to 343 Marty!

darkknight9174
darkknight9174

If this is true.. not cool Bungie. Don't treat your creative talent poorly or they will abandon you.

kingcrimson24
kingcrimson24

I loved that Song from Halo reach ! right at the beginning of the game !

jayjay444
jayjay444

343 should hire Marty he is in my opinion the best in the industry when it comes to music in video games, I would love to hear music like the original Halo games in the new Halo 5 again.

xcollector
xcollector

So they fired him, didn't say why, and didn't even give him his goodbye cheque? Bungie is an A hole. I guess they fit in perfectly with Activision.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

They do have to pay him for the vacation, but now we're going to find out the REAL reason they fired him, and I'm betting it's not going to be so flattering.

Csdabest89
Csdabest89

Take a fat check on another project. Hell GO WORK ON GEARS OF WAR. You have the resume to walk into ANY PROJECT.

lostn
lostn

His work was already done, so he was redundant until the next game. They can rehire him on contractual basis. But no point paying salaries for a guy who's music is already finished. What is he going to do each week towards Destiny?

Johny_47
Johny_47

He should move on and use his talent on good things instead, see, Halo games have gone down hill and dropped like a sack of s*^t since Halo 2 for me. I stopped playing them after 3 it was so cheese, full of cliches. The soundtracks though have stayed brilliant though so his talent is wasted on these new pieces of crap they milk called Halo.

TimberWolf_CLT
TimberWolf_CLT

Unless Marty's done something beyond egregious to have been fired Bungie would have been far better off taking the high road and just pay him for those items.  He can't be owed that much and Bungie would come off looking like an honorable party in the public mindset.

I agree completely that we don't have anywhere near enough information on what transpired and what is or is not owed.  However, regardless of the facts, Bungie's reputation is going to take a ding for taking the "we don't owe him 'nuthin" stance.  Public good will is hard to garner and harder to keep and this isn't going to help.  It probably won't seriously impede them, but they don't need that when they're pushing a new IP like Destiny.

jmo

deadpen
deadpen

The cause was "cause they wanted to" what other cause do you need.

spikepigeo
spikepigeo

I heard the Destiny "theme" played at a video-games symphony recently as a sort of "surprise appearance". 


Apparently it was created, in part, by Sir Paul McCartney. The other part being O'Donnell.


...it was bad. It was dull, drab and not and instant classic like O'Donnell's old work, at all. It was very generic. Could have been on one of those royalty-free soundtracks that certain companies sell, for all I know.


They shoved this brilliant man to the side so that they could slap Paul's big name on their project. And how much did that cost them? Whatever it was, I can tell you already it probably wasn't worth it.

NTM23
NTM23

This is messed up. Him getting fired in the first place. "We're done with you. See ya. Oh, what? No, you can't have this money." The other guy leaving as well wasn't a great start either.

jako998
jako998

I know this has nothing to do with the Article but... IMO I think Bungie should of partnered with EA for their new game Destiny. why ? because they would of used the Frostbite 3 engine and it would of made Destiny look even better because right now, the graphics in Destiny don't look that amazing. and yes I know graphics doesn't make a game great but I mean still

MaximerV8
MaximerV8

because what he did for halo can't be undone. as in making 1 hell of a kick ass theme.  

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

GET A JOB LOSER!

lol sorry its just I never got the chance to say that.

Barighm
Barighm

That's the Activision influence.


...which would have been my only response, but right at the end of the article, I see he has a stake in Bungie. And that alone would be enough to tick off Kotick. That's exactly why West and Zamp were fired (they had negotiated way too favourable an agreement with Activision). Activision doesn't want anyone not directly controlled by a simple contract to have access to Destiny's potential revenue.

quickshooterMk2
quickshooterMk2

his music forever shall live in my memory 


i can't believe they fired him and replaced halo music with wub wub wub 


a$$holes, they deserve to die. 

UnstoppableKARL
UnstoppableKARL

I have a bad feeling that whatever issue caused Marty to be fired will be revealed soon...and many will be shocked at the reason.  Awesome composer though.

chris120379
chris120379

He should set his former bungie ceo's house on fire. That'll teach him.

FroMcJoe
FroMcJoe

NO MARTY!!!! His beats will always be fresh!

Chr0noid
Chr0noid

Stick it to em Marty.  Bungie deserves a hole in their pockets for making eleventy billion Halo games but not a single Oni sequel.

chechak7
chechak7

music was key and it's GONE so .....is helo gone ?

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

for me the Halo games really stood out for me not from its gameplay or story, but from its Music. The music was key to everything that was going on in the game and movies 'Halo Legends' I once did a dissertation 'a long time ago' about the importance of music in film, and the effects it has over different scenes, emotion and events throughout the film/s. Having a good score makes a huge impact one characters, scenes and story telling. It could make it epic, sad, ation feel etc etc. If music is used pooly such as, lets have punk/hard rock/metal in the halo games. It would give off a totally different feel for the games and films.


O'Donnell's music was something very very different we haven't heard before in games. Being fired/sacked out of the blue with no explanation is wrong in my eyes. Considering O'Donnell and Bungie have been working together for years and made something special together and been told 'bye' just like that seems very wrong. 


But as we dont really know what happened its hard to take sides. Being fired out of the blue sucks, but he could of been asking for way too much money or demanded things which were not good for the company who knows. Either way i wish O'Donnell good luck and finding a new place to work, because being sacked is never good.

sasukejc370
sasukejc370

@Scalds 343 Ruined Halo but it would be amazing to hear more of Marty's music, eve if it's in a terrible game, which means it won't have nearly as big effect as his music did before. 

DarkReign2022
DarkReign2022

@jayjay444 I was going to say the same thing. With his newfound freedom, he ought to come back to Halo and make it great again. Marty is one of my 3 favorite composers in the videogame industry and I would love to see a return to basics for him.

megatronx2
megatronx2

@Johny_47 Here's how it is in the top of this industry if you're a contract composer: the composition job is sent out to several composers, which all prepare a demo tracks, and then one or couple are being chosen. So to actually be hired and have a monthly wadge is the best and most secure option for composer. 

jayjay444
jayjay444

@Johny_47 You've never played Halo in your life lol so why lie? I would love to see even one FPS from Sony that's had the success that Halo has achieved better yet a FPS that's actually anywhere near as good because there never will be.  

lostn
lostn

@Johny_47 You may think those games are crap, as do I, but millions of people continue to buy them every year.

holenjd
holenjd

@deadpen If you have a job and your employer fired you and you ask why... They say "case we want to", I don't think you would take it so well.  I know I wouldn't.

sgtpepper1806
sgtpepper1806

I'm usually very vocal about gameplay over graphics but from what we've seen of destiny it really looks underwhelming. The PS4 version looks roughly on par with halo 4 (just a tad better). This means the X1 version will be just the same and the last-gen ones... *shivers*

Fastphase1
Fastphase1

@Barighm Activision can't touch an independed studio like Bungie. They could walk out at any time from the contract if they want and give Destiny to other publisher.

sgtpepper1806
sgtpepper1806

5. Bungie made 5 halo games. Then there was the spin off "Wars"_ then 4, then Spartan Assault. All by different developers. People keep going on about halo being milked, but 8 games is minescule compared to other franchises like CoD, which hasn't even been around as long as halo.

Gta3-fan334
Gta3-fan334

@chechak7 Well since Microsoft owns the rights to Halo not Bungle... Halo will be fine. Heck, maybe Microsoft will hire Mr. O'Donnell 

Barighm
Barighm

@TERMINATOR-SSD Yep. There have been studies that show humanity in general responds more to sound than visual cues and that we are more likely to remember a sound or taste than something we saw.

lostn
lostn

@isane-bishop @lostn I don't know the details of his employment contract, but you'd have to assume that he was paid for the work he did. If he was getting paid his salary weekly or monthly after his soundtrack was done, perhaps they had no further use for him and didn't want to continue paying him for nothing. I have no idea what went down. Only he and Bungie knows. Maybe they tried to hire him as a freelancer on contractual basis, instead of salaried. Or perhaps that was his deal all along and he just had a bust up with someone there and they fired him.

Johny_47
Johny_47

@megatronx2 @Johny_47 Tell that to Danny Elfman, if a certain director(like Tim Burton for example with films) then they know what a certain composer can do and they just give them the job of scoring a film / game. Marty O'Donnell must have had this kind of relationship with the main people doing the Halo games for him to be scoring 'em this long so if they want to just chuck that away, probably over money then they should f*^k off.


And the people above defending halo are some of the most ignorant bastards on this site.

jts1891
jts1891

@lostn @Johny_47 Halo 3 was amazing, and Reach was fun as well. 4 didn't quite measure up, but considering it was the first game by a new studio, it wasn't bad at all.

sgtpepper1806
sgtpepper1806

That's not the way it works. Activision have invested billions in this. If bungie were to just walk out, the lawsuit would put them straight out of business.